Saving South Dakota: A crisis in grassland conversion…

Fort Pierre National Grassland, South Dakota
Fort Pierre National Grassland, South Dakota

If you read my post South Dakota is Dying and would like find out more about what’s happening in South Dakota, I suggest you read this excellent five-part series in the Capital Journal in Pierre, SD. It outlines what’s at stake, what’s changing across the state, and what may lie ahead for pheasant and other birds species in South Dakota. Here’s part 2 of 5:

Habitat in crisis: Conservationists worry about factors driving grassland conversion. By Allison Jarrell, Thu Oct 24, 2013.

The story of South Dakota since the 1862 Homestead Act has been in large part the story of converting grassland into cropland. It’s nothing new to sow wheat or corn where there once was grass. Drive along any East River highway and you’ll spot rocks plucked from beds of prairie grass or water draining from rich, dark soil.

But scientists studying satellite images of the western edge of the Corn Belt say something different is happening now…

Read all of this piece now.

Save South Dakota: A tradition continues, but for how long?

SD Opening Day 2011, Heading Out
SD Opening Day 2011, Heading Out

Thank you to everyone who checked out my post South Dakota is Dying. It’s a sad story, but here’s the first step in doing something about it: Learn more about just what’s happening in SD and how this is hurting pheasants and all wild animal populations.

The Capital Journal in Pierre, SD, published an excellent five-part series on what is at stake, what is changing, and what may lie ahead for pheasant and other birds species across the state. If you care about what’s happening in South Dakota, I encourage you to check it out. Here’s part 1 of 5:

Habitat in crisis: South Dakota’s pheasant hunting tradition continues. By Lance Nixon

The South Dakota Department of Tourism doesn’t pay Frank Beck for advertising South Dakota attractions, but it might as well.

Beck’s Nebraska license plates proclaim “LK OAHE” to anyone else on the road.

“People ask me, ‘What does that mean?’ I tell them, ‘Well, there’s this lake in South Dakota that’s called Oahe,’” Beck says. Then if they have the time, Beck tells them about the hunting and fishing…

Read the entire piece now. Learn more about what’s happening in South Dakota.

South Dakota is dying…

South Dakota, 2011. The last good year?
South Dakota, 2011. The last good year?

This is a sad story. It kicks me in the gut and makes me want to scream.

Right now, one of the greatest places on earth to hunt wild game birds is dying.

Across South Dakota, the double blow of drought and vanishing cover is wiping out the pheasants, sharptails, and huns. I’m sure it’s having the same impact on waterfowl and other wildlife, too.

This report confirms my fears. It’s a first-hand account from a friend and one of the most disheartening things I’ve read in a long time.

October 26, Miller, SD — The pheasants are gone. We have hunted three farms that total over 22 sections for more than 20 years. There were 8 of us this year, all experienced hunters and two very good dogs, my 5 year old Lab and a 7 year old Golden. In 4 days of hunting from noon until dark we killed a grand total of 12 pheasants. I shot 3 shells and killed two. Two of the hunters did not get one bird. We talked to a group of 10 hunters from Ohio and Indiana Wednesday who hunted for three hours Tuesday before they even saw one hen. We were skunked Wednesday! We hunted from noon until dark and saw only two roosters and five hens. We did not see one Sharptail or Chicken the entire week.

Until this year there were a total of 4 sections on the farms in CRP. They are all in crops now. Five years ago there were no soybeans anywhere due to the low moisture of the soil. This year with new genetic modified seeds, there were five sections planted in beans. Of course the harvested fields looked like a paved parking lot and there were no birds anywhere around them.

To give you a perspective, one of our group has kept a detailed hunting log of every hunt, every day, for the past 21 years. Every year until last year the group averaged over 13 birds per hunter every year. Five years ago, in the third week of the season, 12 of us killed 36 pheasants in less than two and a half hours on the same farms.

I doubt if I will ever go back to hunt pheasants in South Dakota. Every hunter that we talked with this week had very similar experiences. We did not talk to anyone who had a good hunt. They have done the same things that essentially destroyed the pheasant hunting in Iowa.